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Hadley, C., A. Tegegn, F. Tessema, J.A. Cowan, M. Asefa, and Sandro Galea. 2008. "Food insecurity, stressful life events and symptoms of anxiety and depression in east Africa: evidence from the Gilgel Gibe growth and development study." Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 62(11): 980-986.
Objectives: Common mental disorders are a major contributor to the burden of disease in developing countries. An assessment was carried out of whether food insecurity and exposure to stressful life events, two common features of life in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), are associated with symptoms of mental disorders among adults. Methods: The Gilgel Gibe Growth and Development Study (GGGDS) is an ongoing cohort study in rural Ethiopia. Participants of the GGGDS were randomly selected from households from a complete census of persons living in the area. The Hopkins Symptom Checklist and the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire were used to assess anxiety and depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Results: Among 902 adult participants, food insecurity, stressful life events and symptoms of common mental disorders were highly prevalent. In separate multivariate models adjusting for potential confounders, food insecurity and stressful life events were independently associated with high symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Conclusions: Potentially modifiable stressors may influence variation in common mental disorders in Ethiopia, and SSA more generally. These findings suggest that the negative effects of food insecurity extend beyond nutritional outcomes and that interventions that promote food security may also positively influence adult mental health in the region.